Walking to promote Activism - Freedom Walk

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I have long been saying that I wanted to actively get involved in Social Activism. When I started the company Zyxware, the definite vision was to be able to use the company to actively drive the change I wished to see in the world. We have been in operation for more than two years now and we are embarking on a very ambitious project this time. It is called Freedom Walk and a team of volunteers are going to walk from Kasargod to Trivandrum to mobilize Social, Environmental and Free Software Activism and to promote collaboration between activist Individuals and organizations across the state. I for one am planning to walk all the way from Kasargod to Trivandrum and we already have a team of volunteers who have signed up to walk in stretches.

I would like to share with you the thought process and the reasoning behind this project and the current state of things. You can find more detailed information at the Freedom Walk website

Background

Our society is ridden with problems - social, economical, environmental. People have always been trying to solve these problems. Sometimes they have been successful while sometimes they have not been. The level of activism and the sensitivity of the people towards these problems have been going down progressively. Good can survive on their own while evil has to collude to survive. This lack of a need has resulted in a definite lack of communication and collaboration among activists in diverse areas.

Free Software as a community driven initiative has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last decade or so. This has been made possible because of the use of technology for efficient collaboration and communication in the community. The parallels between Free Software activism and Social and Environmental activism are very close, but their individual progresses have been very different.

Objective

1) Run a mobilization campaign across the state to build awareness about the issues that we are addressing.
2) Use this campaign to connect with and connect together individuals and activists across the state
3) Offer Technology as an efficient means and a supplement to the existing systems used by the activist organizations

Hypothesis

1) There is lot of inherent goodwill in the society. If we can tap into this goodwill to promote social causes we should be able to scale up any kind of social operations massively
2) There is inherent goodness in everybody. If we offer the right kind of opportunity for people to offer their capability, services and resources in a way and scale convenient and comfortable to them, they will.

Idea

Identify a campaign that will be bizarre that people would find it novel. I am making myself available for this project as the crazy IT guy who gave up a life in the US, a job in the US and who came back to India to try to do the impossible. Additionally do something that people don't hear very often. So we have figured out this idea of walking from Kasargod to Trivandrum covering all district capitals and conducting awareness seminars in Educational Institutions and other organizations along the way. Politicians have done this, Adventurers have done this, Activists have done this - but an IT entrepreneur with the above profile - not before. This idea have been thrown out to peers and the only response that we have been getting is - Crazy - and we think that is good.

Our offer to activist Individuals and Organizations

1) Ride on this program to promote their activities locally and across the state.
2) Use this program to connect with like minded individuals and organizations across the state
3) Upgrade their operations by using technologies and services that are being offered

Organizational aspects

We are trying to partner with organizations who have reach and presence in local areas across the state to organize the programs. Currently we are partnering with Free Software communities across Kerala. These communities are going to utilize this vehicle to promote the free software movement in the state. Free Software communities are already well connected and they have reasonably good presence across the state. These organizations will be able to organize public functions and local gatherings where the general public can be included.

An agreement has almost been reached with WWF to partner with them to channel all the environmental activism and queries that are going to be generated. WWF has presence in schools across Kerala through their social forestry and nature clubs. They should be able to organize programs in schools where these clubs are active

We are trying to mobilize support of other social activist organizations and individuals to use this opportunity and organize their programs along the way.

Attracting Media Attention

The walk and the people who are walking and the collaboration platform are areas which we think are going to be attractive to the media. Media has also been very attracted to Free Software and has been promoting Free Software liberally during our activities in Trivandrum and we are hoping to bank on Free Software for this program also.

Promotion over the web

We will be using web as a primary channel to promote this project. The whole walk will be covered virtually everyday and reports, photos and videos will be updated to the website - www.freedomwalk.in - to let people across the state and the world know about this. The site is designed to let people interact with the people walking on a real time basis.

Collaboration Platform

There is no point in bringing people together just for the event and forgetting about them after that. The whole point of this exercise is to connect activist individuals and organizations together and build awareness among the general public. The event should serve the purpose of building public awareness. For connecting individuals and organizations we are developing and are planning to launch an online collaboration platform that can be used for free by this target section of the population. In addition this platform could also possibly give an opportunity for people in all sections of the society to contribute towards causes and we will have an opportunity to validate our hypothesis no 2.

General Strategy for the program

We are going to follow a more or less impromptu strategy for organizing the talks and seminars and public functions.
There are three reasons for this :-
1) We don't have good centralized resources for doing this.
2) We don't have very strong local connections.
3) The organization is going to get easier once the public visibility and the momentum of the program increases.

Pending items in organization

1) Actual details of talks/seminars have not been finalized
2) Actual details of organizations who will be organizing the programs
3) Contact information of people who will be organizing the programs
4) Approximate dates during which the walk will pass through a district have to be finalized

Impromptu items that are going to be fun and exciting

1) Places of stay have not been identified
2) Path through certain districts are flexible

Strengths

1) Very strong in web based collaboration and building web based systems to rapidly mobilize online
2) Permanent team in Trivandrum to act as the Virtual Operations Centre(VOC)
3) Strong brand presence and reach in the Free Software Communities across Kerala.

Not possible to join the walk for a few hours on just one day?

Of course you can join us for anywhere from a few minutes to the whole length of the walk.
Anoop

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